- October 13, 2021
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Char Magaro, owner of Char's Tracy Mansion at 1829 N. Front St. in Harrisburg, pictured in March. Magaro closed the restaurant in May. File photo by Dan Gleiter | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s been a rocky ride for restaurants in the Harrisburg area.
The past 19 months have been plagued by financial losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, labor shortages and rising food prices.
While the industry fights to stay afloat, some establishments have not weathered the storm and were forced to close. Not every restaurant cites the pandemic as the main reason for closing, but the virus stands out as the main culprit.
Here is a list of some of the major closings in and around the Harrisburg area since the beginning of 2021.
In April, the family-style restaurant at 771 Eisenhower Blvd. in Swatara Township permanently closed, according to a sign posted on the establishment’s door.
The restaurant chain was founded in 1948 in Columbus, Ohio and is now owned by Golden Gate Capital in San Francisco. It operates about 445 restaurants in 18 states.
In recent years, the number of Bob Evans restaurants has dropped off.
In 2018, a Bob Evans at 135 Sheraton Drive in Northern York County closed. In 2015, Bob Evans restaurants in Mechanicsburg, Carlisle and one in Lancaster closed after the chain announced it was shutting down 20 underperforming restaurants across the nation.
Chef Ron Canady, in front, with Char Magaro, and in back, from left, line cook Justin Kaflic, sous chef Saladean Moore and line cook Jorge Vazquez. Magaro is the owner of Char's Tracy Mansion at 1829 N. Front St. in Harrisburg. March 17, 2021. Dan Gleiter | email@example.com
Char’s at Tracy Mansion in Harrisburg
Owner Char Magaro announced the end of an era in March.
She said she was retiring along with the restaurant’s chef Ron Canady. The last day for business at the 1829 N. Front St. restaurant along the Susquehanna River was May 13.
“I’m ready to go but it has been very emotional,” Magaro said in March. “I sat down with all of my employees on Saturday because they deserve to know before the public. It was very hard. I admit I broke down a few times.”
Magaro, who first opened Char’s in Shipoke in 2002, said she was selling the restaurant’s real estate, including furnishings and kitchen equipment. The liquor license was also available for sale as a separate transaction.
The closing has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic, Magaro said, adding Canady always told her when he turned 60, a milestone he recently marked, he would retire. In addition, she said she turned 70 last year.
Duke’s Bar & Grill, Hershey
Dukes Bar & Grill in Hershey closed in March after a 17-year run.
Owner Don Carter, Jr. said someone made an offer to buy the restaurant at 1715 E Chocolate Ave. The restaurant closed on March 15, the same day Carter said he informed employees.
“We just made a business decision. We had a nice offer,” Carter said. “I just figured we’d consolidate efforts and concentrate on the river.”
Carter owns Dockside Willies and Dukes Riverside Bar & Grill along the Susquehanna River in Wormleysburg as well as Dukes West in Hampden Township.
The Gingerbread Man restaurant at 26. W. Main St. in Mechanicsburg closed in July. Owner Dick Phelan said he plans to reopen it.
Gingerbread Man, Mechanicsburg
The landmark Gingerbread Man in Mechanicsburg closed in July.
However, in a turn of events, owner Richard Phelan said the restaurant at 26 W. Main St. is poised for a comeback. It had operated at the corner spot since 1979.
“The thing is I know I can do it. I’ll be honest, I’m lonely. I lost my wife of 55-plus years, the most wonderful girl,” Phelan said.
Phelan, 77, said he was motivated to reopen after learning about economic development liquor licenses which he acquired this summer. The licenses, designed to encourage economic development, are authorized by the PLCB even if a county exceeds its maximum license allocation.
Friendly's at 1000 Reese Ave. at the intersection with University Drive closed in August. File photo by Dan Gleiter | firstname.lastname@example.org
Friendly’s in Hershey
The ice cream restaurant at 1000 Reese Ave. in Derry Township locked its doors on Aug. 28, according to a corporate spokeswoman. She said the restaurant’s lease had expired and the owners have other plans for the property.
The property is owned by The Hershey Company, according to Dauphin County property records. Hershey spokesman Jeff Beckman said at this time it does not have any plans to share about the property and said the company is always evaluating properties for improvements and potential uses.
Hoss’s Family Steak & Sea in Enola
The steakhouse chain announced the East Pennsboro Township restaurant closing this summer. The doors shut on Aug. 22.
“We thank you for the many years of love and community support!” read a sign posted to the front door.
House of Vegans in Harrisburg
A new Harrisburg restaurant specializing in vegan soul food temporarily closed in February due to a drop in business related to the coronavirus pandemic.
House of Vegans, which opened in July 2020 at 1426 N. Third St., suspended operations with plans to possibly resume in the near future at a new location or with a food truck.
Owners Stefan Hawkins and LaQuana Barber said on a Facebook post business in the previous two months had dropped by 60% as they felt the effects of COVID-19 restrictions.
Manor Restaurant & Lounge in West Hanover Township
The Zoumas family closed the Manor Restaurant & Lounge in West Hanover Township at the end of September after selling the establishment.
The 170-seat neighborhood restaurant and bar at 300 S. Hershey Road served traditional American cuisine with a Mediterranean influence. It opened in 2012 and replaced Pavone’s Restaurant.
The family also owns The Hearth Family Restaurant in Lebanon. Pete Zoumas Sr. said after his brother, Kim Zoumas, died earlier this year, the family decided to downsize operations and sell the Manor.
He said the new owner plans to close for renovations and reopen as a family restaurant.
Old Country Buffet in Lower Paxton Township
The restaurant at 5083 Jonestown Road in Lower Paxton Township temporarily closed in 2020 due to the pandemic. However, by 2021, it was evident the doors would never reopen when an auction was announced.
The popular buffet was a destination where diners helped themselves to homestyle foods. The restaurant was the last Old Country Buffet in operation in Pennsylvania, according to the chain’s website.
In February the Phoenix, Arizona-based Auction Nation conducted the online liquidation auction of contents including dishes, kitchen equipment, tables and cleaning supplies.
Stevie Wright, left, and Becca Wright at Stevie's Bistro at 2163 Market St. in Camp Hill in 2020. The restaurant closed at the end of August. File photo by Dan Gleiter | email@example.com
Stevie’s Bistro in Camp Hill
On Aug. 29, owner Stevie Wright closed her restaurant at 2163 Market St. in Camp Hill after 2 1/2-years.
Wright said the decision was based on several factors, among them a lack of available help. She was working 100 hours a week and in need of at least four additional employees. Attempts to hire workers led to dead ends, so she shaved back the restaurant’s hours.
“I worked so hard with trying to impress people with the menu and quality of service. And, with only three of us here, I knew long-term all of that was going to suffer,” she said.
Maintaining the bistro’s menu also became difficult due to supply chain disruptions. Stevie’s served a variety of homemade soups, omelets, crepes and sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. At one point, Wright said she had connections with suppliers which helped, but those people left their jobs.
Sweet Frog in Hershey
A popular frozen yogurt chain’s outpost near Hershey permanently closed.
SweetFrog Premium Frozen Yogurt at 275 Hershey Road at the Meadows Marketplace in South Hanover Township shut down on June 13, according to a Facebook post.
“We are very sad to be closing. But we will forever cherish and appreciate all of our customers. We have made a lot of memories here in this community over the years. Thank you all for the good times. We will miss you all so much!!!” reads the post.
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